A Review of Lead Waters

A Lead testing kit. If you can find one of these, use it on a water fountain near you for a fun experiment! Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

For those of you who remember, lead was discovered in Portland Public School’s (PPS) water pipes late in the 2015-16 school year. We didn’t catch it sooner, as we didn’t know what lead tasted like, because we’d been drinking it all our lives. With the revolution that was lead-free drinking fountains, we’ve been removed from the taste of lead for long enough that we can now taste the difference between the unique flavors of our K-8 years. So I’ve begun a journey to sample the flavors of our youth.

Beverly Cleary at Rose City Park

Certainly a subdued flavor, but identifiable nonetheless. Tastes like copper, but just to the left. Reminds me somehow of fourth grade, and the series of stupidly popular songs, like Pharell Williams “Happy,” Yvis’ “What Does The Fox Say,” and Imagine Dragons “Radioactive.” The lead content here is fairly low, only 3.49 Parts Per Billion (PPB) above the max threshold of 0.2 PPB. While frequent and intentional consumption is never advised, this is a good “special occasion” water.

Franklin High School: 

The hometown hero of lead water. Just a few fountains and faucets have the goods and you can taste the PVC pipes. A hint of the Portland central water supply leaks in, with all of the new and unblocked pipes. While a majority of our fountains are clean, you can still find a few spots on campus with lead water, and as of February 4 2020, one standout spot was something called “Kitchen Kettle” on the PPS spreadsheet. If you know, you know. Keep clear, folks!

Creative Science School

There’s something to be said for the flavors of youth. For me, the phrase “oh sh*t” comes to mind, among others. You could always tell that the water was off, it always tasted like metal anyways. According to PPS, most of the fountains are clean, but one still has 37.7 PPB (It is one of the staff break rooms, so at least it won’t affect the students. This is, however, horrifyingly high, and could explain staff behavior.) Best of luck to the people back there, but I’m glad I got out when I did.

Grant High School

You thought you were safe, huh? You and your new building? Well, you were wrong. Out of fifty-three tested locations, twelve had lead counts above the threshold. For a new, “lead-free” building, that’s a lot of lead to be found in the newest PPS buildings. While I am deeply sorry for your loss (of loss of lead), I am glad that it happened as I hope that PPS will learn and apply this to Madison’s building. The water probably tastes like broken promises and shattered dreams. Or it just tastes like water. I certainly didn’t want to go to Grant for some water. Would you?

In conclusion, all lead water is bad. Don’t drink it. There is no way to develop an immunity to it, so it’s not even worth it to try. It’s also worth noting that lead doesn’t boil out of water, so maybe bring a water bottle from home. Thank you for your time.

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